Posts Tagged ‘Insects’

Loch Coruisk and Beyond (Updated)

June 9, 2019

On Friday, I took the boat from Elgol to Loch Coruisk and circumnavigated the latter. At the north end I went part way up Glac Mhòr, though only to about 300m.

Loch Coruisk

Loch Coruisk from Glac Mhòr

This area is generally very species-poor but along the northeast side of the loch there is a small area of birch and hazel that yielded quite a few species not seen in the surrounding moor.

At about 300m on Glac Mhòr there is a surprisingly rich overhang with an unexpected mix of plants. As well as the unsurprising Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Bladder-fern), Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage), Hieracium sp. (Hawkweed) etc., there were Ficaria verna subsp. fertilis (Lesser Celandine), Geranium robertianum (Herb-Robert) and Rumex obtusifolius (Broad-leaved Dock) none of which have been previously recorded for some distance in any direction.

I should have taken a photograph but I was concentrating on wriggling back out of the overhang. The day much improved the status of recording in NG42L which is now off the  bottom of the Cuillin tetrads in terms of post-1999 taxa at 79 cf 19 at the beginning of the year. Thanks to mountaineers who have contributed high-level records.

There were some fine old hollies:

Ancient Holly

Ancient Holly

and a few nice insects.

Small Pearl-borderd Fritillary

Small Pearl-borderd Fritillary

Sawfly probably Tenthredo olivacea TBC

Sawfly: Rhogogaster viridis (Thanks, Jenni.)

and a stonefly:


Stonefly:  Siphonoperla torrentium (TBC, Thanks, Craig)


To Ollach Lochs

June 6, 2019

South of Healabhal Beag (MacLeod’s Table South) there is a group of three lochs that had not been visited by a recording botanist for over fifty years. The tetrad they lie in had a few post-1999 records from when I dropped into the northern edge from Healabhal Beag in 2015, plus a few more from Nick and others. It now has 147 post-1999 species recorded.

Beinn Bhac-ghlais had the sort of things one might expect: Diphasiastrum alpinum, (Alpine Clubmoss), Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow), Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry), etc.

One of the lochs had several of this large Caddis-fly which I fear will have to go unidentified:


Unidentified Caddis

and I spotted this micro-moth, the Yellow-Faced Bell (Notocelia cynosbatella) (thanks Keith for ID):

Notocelia cynosbatella

Notocelia cynosbatella

There were Clouded Borders and Chimney Sweepers too.

The area around Orbost turned out to be rather more poorly recorded than I had realised and I added lots of records to adjacent tetrads. Bromus hordeaceus (Soft-brome) is pretty infrequent on Skye and Schedonorus arundinaceus (Tall Fescue) even more so, but both were present along the main track:

When Skye Nature Group was at Uig last week we noted some Alopecurus pratensis (Meadow Foxtail) where the lower part of the inflorescence seemed to be eaten away. There was more like that at Orbost and a similar effect on Anthoxanthum odoratum (Sweet Vernal-grass). I tried to take some photos but they didn’t turn out well enough to share. I am interested to know what causes this, though.

There was also a planted shrub that I haven’t yet managed to identify:

Later: It is a Spiraea, perhaps Spiraea hypericifolia. There is the same thing in Dunvegan Castle grounds and Ingrid has promised to check their records for an ID.

I spotted a fly mine on Atriplex prostrata (Spear-leaved Orache) which Seth tells me is probably Pegomya sp. but one has to rear the fly for a firm ID.

There was also this on Populus tremula (Aspen), which I am hoping will turn out to be caused by an interesting moth:


Those Red Squares

May 18, 2019

Neil has now paddled to the east side of Longay to record in NG63Q and in passing had a look at the northern tip of Pabay where NG62U features on the list of VC104 tetrads. The latter, as shown on the OS map, has no land above the high water mark and unsurprisingly, Neil found it to contain no plants. There are several like this in the vice-county and in future editions of my tetrad numbers map I shall turn these another colour meaning there really are zero vascular plants.

Yesterday Neil kindly shared his double kayak with me and we went to Griana-sgeir off Fladday (itself off Raasay) as this is the only land in NG55Q and never recorded before. We found 23 plants in this small outpost, normally the domain of seals and seabirds.



There is an area of shell sand but it lies entirely below the high water mark, so does not influence the vegetation. The major environmental factor apart from the exposed coastal location appears to be the seabirds, adding nitrogenous material to the area.

Gull nest

Gull nest

I spotted this fly on a dandelion and await Murdo’s verdict, though it may not be possible to determine from an image. I had no net or containers with me, but I did capture some ants….

Fly on Griana-sgeir

Fly on Griana-sgeir

We did not land on Glas Eilean as there is a large tern colony – we estimated about 200 birds, but we did go to Fraoch Eilean which was very different from Griana-sgeir, having rowan trees and bracken – but still only 28 plant species recorded.  Both these islands are in a tetrad that has been well recorded on Raasay but I had never been to them before.

Neil spotted a fabulous little moth Pammene rhediella (Fruitlet Mining Tortrix) on the rowan (there were quite a number of them):

Pammene rhediella

Pammene rhediella on rowan


Coir a’ Ghrunnda

May 13, 2019

I had never been into tetrad NG41P at the southern end of the Cuillins and there were only 21 post-1999 records for it plus about the same from before. Yesterday I went with the intention of doing something about that by visiting the two lochans, the Allt Coir a’ Ghrunnda and the higher rocks for alpines. All this was achieved and the total taxon count now stands at 95.

This view from part of the way up shows Soay in the foreground then Eigg and Rum, and in the distance Muck:

Islands from Coir a' Ghrunnda

Islands from Coir a’ Ghrunnda

There were two plants recorded from the more southerly lochan that have not been recorded in NG41 since before 2000: Isoetes lacustris (Quillwort) and Sparganium natans (Least Bur-reed). I only found the former.

However, I added Salix x ambigua (S. aurita x repens)to NG41. It is quite widespread in the Black Cuillins in NG42 so it was no great surprise to find it just over the 10km square boundary. The first one I found was in open ground and grazed but as I worked my way up the corry there was quite a lot more, some fruiting:

Salix phylicifolia

I found that I had wandered so far up Coir a’ Ghrunnda that I was within 20m of the next tetrad north, NG42K, and not far inside it there was Loch Coir a’ Ghrunnda, so I made the extra effort.

Loch Coir a' Ghrunnda

Loch Coir a’ Ghrunnda

The only vascular plant I could see in the loch was Juncus bulbosus (Bulbous Rush) but there was a good colony of Saussurea alpina (Alpine Saw-wort) nearby.

Part way up I spotted this cranefly:



Thinking that pattern on the thorax like a gurning gargoyle would make it easy to identify, I didn’t take it. Doh! My friendly fly experts can’t do it from the image. On the bright side I did take a couple of crane-flies from 600-700m altitude so I am hoping that they turn out to be interesting.

Catch-up: Non-botany at Home

April 23, 2019

Our first cuckoo of the year woke me up at 0450.  April 23rd is a popular date for the first cuckoo at West Suisnish.

For those living further south, a black-headed gull will be a common sight, but not here:

Black-headed Gull190409

Black-headed Gull at West Suisnish

This little spider is Textrix dendiculata, the toothed weaver (thanks for i.d. Gemma) and was basking on the outside of the house:

Textrix dendiculata

Textrix dendiculata (Toothed Weaver)

The moth trap has been out a few times with Hebrew Character moths being by far the most frequent but this Early Thorn was nice:

Early Thorn

Early Thorn

and Seth has kindly determined this carabid beetle from the bathroom basin as Pterostichus nigrita:

Pterostichus nigrita

Pterostichus nigrita


Brae, Raasay

April 14, 2019

I made a shortish visit to the Brae area of Raasay today to update some old plant records i.e. try to re-find some more of the things I recorded before 2000. This was reasonably successful given the time of year, but I also spotted a couple of insects and a fungus worth mentioning.

I have seen four specimens of the Green Parasitic Fly (Gymnocheta viridis) in the past couple of weeks, but today I spotted another tachinid that may be Botria subalpina, a fly first recorded in the British Isles, in NW Scotland, in 1994. There are still only 13 records on NBN, all in the Highlands, one of which was at my home three years ago. If right, and that will have to wait until I see Murdo at the end of the month, this will be a second 10km square on Raasay where it is known.



I also spotted a Violet Oil-Beetle (Meloe violaceus), the second in less than a week seen on Raasay as Jonathan and Sarah found one at the far north end last Tuesday. One has to be careful to distinguish this from Meloe proscarabaeus – a useful guide is here. There are about as many Raasay records as there are Skye records, so may be something to look out for across the water.

Meloe violaceus

Meloe violaceus

The fungus is worth mentioning because now is the time of year to find it:

Uromyces dactylidis

Celandine Clustercup Rust (Uromyces dactylidis)

Return to Kinloch

April 12, 2019

I decided that I needed better images of the wintergreen at Kinloch and so on my way to Edinburgh for the BSBI Scottish Recorders Conference yesterday I went back with a camera more suitable for long-range photography and did OK:

Orthilia Kinloch

Orthilia Kinloch

The serrated leaves are clearly visible and the relatively short petioles compared to the leaf blades are also apparent – another feature not shared by Pyrola spp.  An excellent guide to the wintergreens inter alia is here.

There were Peacock butterflies about, too.

Recent Insects

April 2, 2019

Last month there was a vine weevil in the house:

Vine Weevil

Otiorhynchus sulcatus

Today there was a Green-veined White butterfly in the greenhouse – I imagine it hatched there early in the warmth.

Green-veined White

Pieris napi

and today I recorded the earliest ever tachinid Gymnocheta viridis in the Highlands – but only by three days.

Kinloch Ravine and Allt nam Criopag

March 24, 2019

Fresh snow on the hills, hail beating at the window at 8 am, yesterday was obviously the perfect day for my first serious botanical expedition of the year. In fact it turned out reasonably pleasant with just a few drops of rain now and then.

The woods of “Kinloch Ravine” to the northeast of Kinloch Farm were surveyed in 1986 but the site spreads over three tetrads in two hectads and records were not kept separate. Also not far away is the Allt nam Criopag which turns out to have a very impressive and long gorge which, apart from the lower end, can only be accessed at rather few points.

Most plants recorded from the woods were re-found yesterday and assigned to 1 km squares. A few remain that would have been nice to sort out but which were unlikely this early in the year such as Carex pallescens (Pale Sedge), Melampyrum pratense (Common Cow-wheat) and Trollius europaeus (Globeflower).  However, there was a very pleasing colony of Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen), a new hectad record and only the second site in the south of Skye. It is about 5m up a vertical cliff above the river:


Kinloch site for Orthilia

With a little zoom one can see the one-sided infructescence with straight exserted styles and on one image with the eye of faith, serrated leaf margins. The only other possibility is Pyrola media (Intermediate Wintergreen) but as well as the one-sidedness and probable serrations, the general growth form is typical of Orthilia.  (I wish I had had my other camera with me; it is better at the telephoto effect.)


Kinloch Orthilia

On to Allt nam Criopag where seven 1968 records from John Birks demanded a search, even though it is March. A small patch of Alchemilla alpina (Alpine Lady’s-mantle) was located whilst Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry), Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern) and Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry) were in a number of sites – and elsehere in the general area.  Lathyrus linifolius (Bitter-vetch), Thalictrum alpinum (Alpine Meadow-rue) and Trollius europaeus (Globeflower) await another visit (maybe).

Holly had mines of the fly Phytomyza ilicis (Holly Leafminer) and on dead leaves the spore bodies of the fungus Trochila ilicina (Holly Speckle), the latter being apparently the less frequent locally.

This fungus growing on a long-dead detached lump of unidentifiable tree looked distinctive but so far I haven’t a clue as to its identity:



After a Bit of a Gap….

March 2, 2019

Quite a long gap really, since I last wrote on this site.  However, a review of plant recording in VC104 for July-December 2018 is on my BSBI page. With Jim McIntosh I have recently completed a country round-up for Scotland for the next BSBI News due out in April.

I have started on plans for this year’s recording and will publish some thoughts here soon. Members of Skye Botany Group can expect an e-mail some time this month.

The mild weather has brought out the insects with a white-tailed bumblebee in the garden in February and many moths being recorded on Skye. I put out the trap a couple of nights ago and had 5 Dotted Border, 1 Early Grey, 1 Common Quaker and 1 Chestnut.